June 25, 2012

Trousers were pulled tight with small bungees or rubber bands just over the boot to make the creases look sharp. Creases were a bitch to get right. The corporals would say to use starch, but it never seemed to do the trick, so tired recruits at three in the morning would use tricks. A line of Super Glue down the inside of the crease ironed flat would leave a razor-edge crease, but on ironing a few times it would start eating through the cotton. Some used a Pritt stick, which would leave white blotches and make the corporal shake his head and give you push-ups until your chest and triceps burned.

The recruit who stood outside waiting would preen another recruit waiting outside his own eight-man room. Then we”€™d hear it: squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak. Corporals would pace down the newly buffed corridor, and their rubber soles sounded as if they were chasing mice. The floors were waxed and polished each night. The man assigned that duty waited for everybody to get into bed and stop walking across the floor, then he”€™d polish the wax that had rested on the floor for a while. The smell of beeswax would send others off to sleep.

If there was a room to be inspected before ours, we”€™d smile as the corporals tore it apart, knowing it would be coming to us soon. Corporals would say of training, “€œYou”€™ll get screwed many times but it won”€™t make you pregnant, gents!”€ Some lads laughed at this because they thought it was funny, some laughed to show the corporal he was funny, and some laughed because they didn”€™t get it. Then the squeaks left the other room and got louder. The duty student would shout and everyone came to attention. The duty student would take out his notebook to jot where the recruits had gone wrong. He”€™d stand behind the corporal and make faces at the soldier being inspected, trying to get him in more trouble. The corporal would say generic things like “€œberet fluff,”€ “€œpockets not flat,”€ and “€œcrap creases.”€

The corporal had many ways to nail us. He”€™d ask to see Army ID cards, which were to be carried in the top left pocket. Someone would always forget it. “€œStart banging them out,”€ he”€™d say, and the recruit would hit the floor and start doing push-ups.

Then came the bed inspection. Getting everything tight was difficult and thus an easy target for the corporals. Lads would take the game too far and sleep on floors to keep their beds sharp, waking up with sore backs.

Recruits would close their eyes and mouth the word “€œshit”€ as they heard the crumple of the A4 paper they”€™d accidentally left in the T-shirt being pulled apart by the corporal behind him. Those lockers that had been perfected until three or four in the morning with belt buckles and badges smelling of Brasso would be ruined as the corporal taught us a very important lesson: Life wasn”€™t fair. Even if you”€™d done everything perfectly, the enemy may still get you.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock



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